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Phenology Talkbacks: Students stunned to see John Latimer snack on ants

John Latimer stands surrounded by schoolchildren as they react to him eating an ant outside.
Charlie Mitchell
Students at St. Croix Preparatory Academy near Stillwater recoil after watching KAXE Staff Phenologist John Latimer eat an ant. Latimer visited the school in May 2024 as part of Phenology in the Classroom.

Remember the last time John Latimer ate an ant in front of a bunch of elementary school students? He did it again for the students at Stillwater's St. Croix Preparatory Academy. This week we have the final report of the school year from them and our friends at the North Shore Community School.

Please share your observations, nature tales and insights! Send them to me (, John Latimer (, or text us at 218-326-1234.

Saint Croix Preparatory Academy near Stillwater

St. Croix Preparatory Academy phenology report: June 4, 2024

Kellie Nelson and her fourth-grade class at St. Croix Preparatory Academy pose with John Latimer during their phenology walk on May 16, 2024. The students are wearing white, blue, or yellow uniforms. They are on a wide gravel trail. There are about 30 students as well as Mrs. Nelson and John Latimer.
Kellie Nelson
Kellie Nelson and her fourth-grade class at St. Croix Preparatory Academy pose with John Latimer during their phenology walk on May 16, 2024.

“This is Wyatt and Hadley with the phenology report from St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater for the week of May 28.

“Last week we had special visitors – Mr. Latimer and Mx. Mitchell. While walking with them we observed invasive honeysuckle blooming and blackberry vines. We saw many ants, and several of us tried eating them! We discovered they are very sour, and that you have to eat them before they bite you!

“The area under our class bird feeder has been visited by two striped gophers. They love eating what the birds leave behind and don’t mind us watching them. One day we had a big Red-tailed Hawk in the tree who was likely also watching the gophers, but the hawk was scared off by the noise we made when we saw it!

On May 28, we noticed lots of mosquito larvae in big puddles left by this weekend’s rain. We also found scat we think is from a coyote because it contained lots of fur. We also found a monarch butterfly egg on milkweed and lots of mushrooms and worms.

“Look at a track, or a squirrel in a tree, notice nature... Phenology!"

North Shore Community School near Duluth

North Shore Community School phenology report: June 4, 2024

“Hello from North Shore Community School on the North Shore of Lake Superior. This is the phenology report for the week of May 25, 2024. My name is Ruby, and I am your phenologist for this week! This will be our last phenology report for the 2023-2024 school year. Thank you for listening and we look forward to starting our phenology reports again in the fall.

“On Wednesday, May 29, Mrs. Rolfe had 3 geese and 8 goslings walk through her yard. Mrs. Urban has heard Great-crested Flycatchers calling in the school forest. On Wednesday, May 29, Mrs. Lampela’s class saw a Broad-winged Hawk fly over the field. Also on Wednesday, Mrs. Urban discovered that the robins nesting in her yard had laid their second clutch of eggs. Their first clutch has already hatched and fledged. On May 30, Mrs. Rolfe’s and Ms. Jackson’s class saw 2 flocks of about 15 geese fly over school in a V-formation. Also on Thursday, Mr. Dover discovered a Downy Woodpecker nest in an ash tree next to the stream.

“On Monday, May 27, Cora’s mom Harmony was a driver in a group of people that stopped to let a newborn fawn cross the road. It had collapsed in the middle of the road and the mother had already crossed. Traffic from all sides stopped to let one man carry the fawn the rest of the way. When he set it down, the mother nudged it up with her nose and they ran off together.

"Lilacs are starting to bloom in French River this week. The lilacs at Cora’s house burst into bloom on Wednesday, May 29. All the white fluff in the air is the poplar trees dispersing their seeds. Poplar trees produce their seeds in catkins, which hang unpollinated on the trees in early spring. Once they are pollinated, green seed capsules form, and when they break open the seeds are released, each carried by a tiny parachute of fluff. This is what you see stuck in the tree, floating through the air, or lying on the ground. On Wednesday, May 29, the preschoolers collected spruce tips in the school forest. The tips were long and lime green. Also on Wednesday, Mrs. Nikki found large, white trillium flowering on a bike ride on the Munger Trail. Mrs. Urban noticed the red elderberry flowering in her yard this week.

"Mrs. Rolfe saw her first monarch butterfly on Saturday, May 26 in Lakeside. Seeing the monarch made Mrs. Rolfe wonder about the common milkweed patch in her yard. When she checked on their growth on Tuesday, May 28, she noticed that they were all about 2 inches tall.

“On Sunday, May 19, Tamara caught a garter snake at Hartly Pond. She noticed that the snake was shedding its eye scales. On Thursday, May 30, Brody caught an adult green frog in the pond at school.

“This concludes the phenology report. Have a great summer and be observant!”

Charlie Mitchell near Marine on St. Croix

Charlie phenology report: June 4, 2024

“Hey John, hi Heidi, this is Charlie Mitchell reporting from Marine on St. Croix.

“I am currently in a canoe around 10 p.m. I just got back from a paddle. On my paddle earlier today, my wife and I got a really close sighting of two muskrats, a beaver, and a baby fawn that was up on the bank overlooking the river. So, as our canoe went past, we got a really good look at it.

“On my nighttime paddle, I saw two baby muskrats out swimming around. I couldn't see the mother anywhere nearby, but they were kind of talking to each other and saw me, and dove under and hid under some tree roots. It was very cute.

“One of the things that's really apparent to me on my evening paddles is the lack of bats. When I would be out, what, 15 years ago, the dusk sky would be filled with bats. And the last couple times I've been out, I've seen one, maybe two individual bats, and that's it. So, that's a shame. Stupid white nose fungus. I'm hoping that we will see a rebound, but that's definitely a difference from when I was growing up.

“We're getting the first of the green frogs plunking away. They're the ones that sound like a banjo, badly tuned. The toads are calling like crazy. The gray treefrogs are starting to call, and I am looking at my first firefly blinking on and off, which is what reminded me to actually record a report for you.

“This is Charlie Mitchell, going hither and thither on the Saint Croix River.”

That does it for this week! For more phenology, subscribe to our Season Watch Newsletter or visit the Season Watch Facebook page.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

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Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined KAXE in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, produces the Phenology Talkbacks show, coordinates the Phenology in the Classroom program, and writes nature-related stories for KAXE's website. Essentailly, Charlie is John Latimer's faithful sidekick and makes sure all of KAXE's nature/phenology programs find a second life online and in podcast form.<br/><br/><br/>With a background in ecology and evolutionary biology, Charlie enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, or the star-nosed mole. (Fun fact: Moles store fat in their tails, so they don't outgrow their tunnels every time conditions are good.)